Norman Foster

Norman Foster

Striving for Simplicity

“Quality is an attitude of mind.” The great architectural mastermind of our time Norman Foster, who turned 80 in June 2015, here reflects on a long and prosperous career – and life – with prominent buildings and more than 1,000 employees all over the world.

Foster has always considered technology to be an ally. As a child he was immensely excited by machines and their speed – he spent many hours making sketches of and reading about them. He left school at age 16, did National Service for two years, worked different jobs to earn money, but never abandoned his private world of drawing and dreaming. When he discovered that he as an architect could actually do the things that had always excited him, it simply didn’t feel like work.

Respecting the structure of a city or a place is essential: “I’ve realized the important links between individual buildings and infrastructure.” Architecture has to address the bigger issues and make a difference to the world we live in. Architects can’t solve every problem in the world, but what they can do, however, is to contribute by turning the complex into something simple via shape as well as material and being aware of the “urban glue” that binds everything together: “We have rethought, redesigned, reinvented. We have questioned and gone back to basics.”

Norman Robert Foster (b. 1935) is an English architect and designer, who is considered one of the most prolific architects of his generation. He is the founder of Foster and Partners (1967) and responsible for renowned buildings such as London City Hall and Millennium Bridge (London), Reichstag (Berlin), Bilbao Metro, Hearst Tower (New York), Hong Kong International Airport, Beijing Capital International Airport and Apple Spaceship Headquarters (est. 2016). Foster, who is a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers and winner of the society’s highest award, The Minerva Medal, has received several awards such as the Pritzker-prize in 1999 (often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture), the Stirling Prize in 1998 and 2004, as well as the Aga Khan Award for Architecture – the biggest architectural award in the world – for the University of Technology Petronas in Malaysia (2007). He was knighted in 1990, and in 1999 he was created a life peer, as Baron Foster of Thames Bank, of Reddish in the County of Greater Manchester.

Norman Foster was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner in his home near Geneva, Switzerland in April 2015.

Camera: Mathias Nyholm
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Music: 'Draw a Blank' by Søren Dahl Jeppesen (from Find the Tune)
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • Wang Shu

    Architecture is a Job for God

    The Chinese architect Wang Shu’s buildings – a crossover between traditional Chinese culture and large-scale modern architecture – have earned him prestigious awards. “Democracy means a really diverse society,” says the architect in this inspiring interview.

  • 8 Artists

    On Painting

    ”A painting must always move beyond its subject,” says British painter Michael Simpson, who sees the practice of painting as ”giving form to an idea.” Hear how he, David Hockney and 6 other painters work with the classical art form.

  • Mette Winckelmann

    Woman to Woman

    ”You must evaluate whether the system you’re part of could be effectuated differently.” Meet artist Mette Winckelmann, who believes that abstract painting communicates deeper than language, and explore her visual take on gender politics.

  • Chigozie Obioma

    Everything We Do is Preordained

    Award-winning Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma calls his debut novel ‘The Fishermen’ “an Igbo version of a tragedy.” Meet the author and hear about his modern day metaphor of “the paradox that is Nigeria.”

  • Ed Ruscha

    Words Have No Size

    The road to being an artist was “like blind leading the blind” says Ed Ruscha, who grew to be one of the most recognised American artists of the 20th century. Hear the story of West Coast Jazz, his break with abstract art and L.A. in the 1960s.

  • Margrethe Odgaard

    Colour Diary of New York

    Becoming more aware of your surroundings can “open a new dimension inside as well as outside yourself.” Meet award-winning Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard who has trained herself to register the world through colours.

  • Adam Caruso

    Novelty is nonsense

    "The European city is one of the great human inventions!” Adam Caruso advocates building with a deep sense of history and tradition. Meet the architect behind the award-winning Tate Britain conversion and numerous Gagosian galleries.

  • Thomas Hirschhorn

    A World of Collage

    Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn juxtaposes pixelated images from the media. His works are not about technology, says the artist: “I try to give form to what I can’t accept: that someone else can decide for me what I should do, see or think.”

  • Jonathan Safran Foer

    On Donald Trump

    Jonathan Safran Foer, star of American literature, offers interesting views on America’s new president and the consequences Trump will have on American culture. "The place for literature may be even more important than before," he says.

  • Dorte Mandrup

    Where Place Meets Sculpture

    Rising from the landscape in a place rich with materiality and history sits architect Dorte Mandrup’s new Wadden Sea Centre. Meet the renowned architect and see a building were “everything comes together.”

  • 5 Artists

    on Making Sculptures

    “All sculpture that I’m interested in knows that death is the inevitable conclusion.” Award-winning artist Antony Gormley sees art as the expression and generation of hope. Hear how he and five other artists work with sculpture.

  • Karl Ove Knausgård

    Literature Should be Ruthless

    Karl Ove Knausgård has enchanted the literary world with ‘My Struggle’, a novel of more than 3000 pages about his own life. Watch the star author discuss literature, writing and how his autobiographical style is closely connected to fiction.